Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Barney is So Self-Indulgent

For the first half hour of "Barney's Version," I wanted to walk out. I found it extremely unfunny, irritating, obnoxious and a waste of my time. Part of the problem for this is that the descriptions of this movie fall in the nebulous category, where publicists don't know what the heck to write about it. "Barney's cranky, and this is his life," is about as far as they'd get.

And indeed, there's Paul Giamatti, irrascible, puffing cigars and drinking booze from the first frame. Making crank calls to his ex-wife at 3 am. Fun stuff. Why the HELL do I want to get involved in this schmuck's life, one asks?

Here's why. To me, it's the story of TRUE LOVE. How true love hits someone and doesn't let go. And how, even when you have true love, you might just mess it up. That's what makes it worth seeing.

Barney's first marriage happens when his bride becomes pregnant. He does the honorable thing, and marries her. Then finds out it wasn't even his kid. That one doesn't end so well.

His dad (Dustin Hoffman) sets him up with his next lovely lady. And Minnie Driver is indeed lovely. And rich. What's not to like? Well, the incessant talking, perhaps...

So, there he is, at his second wedding, surrounded by many of her relatives, everyone getting smashingly drunk. Barney most of all, pounding back the shots. When suddenly through his drunken stupor, he looks across the room and sees her. Not his freshly-minted wife. His true love. And it hits him like an oncoming train.

He ventures closer and starts talking to her. She sees he is drunk. But they do hit it off. He abruptly leaves his own wedding to chase her to the train heading back to New York. And so it begins.

So there was the reason that made me sit in my seat for the rest of the movie, and be rewarded. How can this schlub of a man find true love with such a beautiful woman? But there it is, clear as day.

The film is based on the writings of Mordecai Richler. The film is dedicated to him.

It is packed with a cast of many stunning acting talents. Scott Speedman, for example, looks like sunshine made real as the charming playboy in Italy.

But the revelation, not surprisingly, since she's been the revelation of several movies of late (Made in Dagenham notably this season, and An Education last) is Rosamund Pike. She is gorgeous, refined, wonderful as a counterpoint to Barney.

It's sad and kind of tragic that Barney chose to live his life the way he wanted to: drinking, smoking big cigars and watching hockey games with the boys at the local bar. The love of his life chose to grow and evolve. But it's very interesting to see how all these pieces fall into place.

So trust me. The beginning may be annoying, but all in all, Barney's Version is a good ride through someone's life. I really do wanna see "Miriam's Version" next, though.


Thursday, December 9, 2010

On Not Getting It versus Insight

Two recent examples of this phenomenon crossed my view stream recently, and I wanted to comment upon them.

The phenomenon, visible all around you (especially if you look at Republicans and Democrats these days) is that of people who stubbornly, blindly, furiously, simply DON'T GET IT. You tell them or give them the information, and they do not or cannot see it. They persist in their stubbornness in seeing only their way, the right way. They blather on about their way, having totally and completely missed the actual point.


The two glaring examples of this that crossed my desk have to do with some (male) reviewers watching my favorite film of the year, "Black Swan," and a female reporter interviewing John Lennon and Yoko Ono.

Let's examine "Black Swan" first. I acknowledge that all art is subjective. People see what they want to see, based on their own set of experiences and life paths. The problem in the translation of "Black Swan," IMHO, has to do with the maleness versus the femaleness.

My perception of "Black Swan" is very much encased in the female mindset. I see it as a dream. Nina dreams of being the best ballerina ever. She shares this with her mother (who perhaps at one time had similar dreams). She sees the path to this dream resting in her ability to conquer perfection. So she studies technique, and becomes the best technical ballerina she can be.

But her male director tells her, NO! To really conquer the "Black Swan"/dark side of your personality/shadow side, you have to release the perfection. You have to be willing to risk, to feel, to experience life, in all its imperfection.

I think everyone is pretty much down with the story through these parts (male and female). But increasingly toward the end, the movie takes on flights of fancy/dream sequences/explorations of the creative mind. This is where many male reviewers seem to fall off. They resort to trying to take this movie literally.

Oh my God, she's turning into a swan. Oh my God, she kills herself at the end! Well, yes and no.

The way I saw it, from the middle of the movie on, she is still a little girl with dreams, trying to experience her own dark side. She is still trying to attain the perfection that she started out trying to attain. And if the director tells her she must be more sexual, she endeavors to do that.

Is it really a "lesbian sex scene" with Mila Kunis as one male reviewer crassly puts it? Or is it actually the bubbling of her subconscious? Her femaleness laid bare in trying to conquer her own sexuality? Did the experience with Kunis really happen? The director leaves you to wondering. THAT is the beauty of it.

Was she, in the end, enticed by Kunis? Enraptured by her? Wanting to sleep with her? Or was Kunis just the free spirit part of herself that she was trying to catch? Was she then, in essence, sleeping with herself, as the director had instructed her to do? Capturing through fantasy what she perhaps couldn't really capture?

And the end of the movie, that so horrified several male critics, who again WRONGLY take it literally, isn't really her dying. At least, that's not how I see it. It was the ballerina on the music box falling off. It was the end of "Swan Lake," as it's supposed to be. It was the grand spectacle of "la petit mort" writ large. Orgasm, the finale, "it was perfect." The end.

And it had to end in a big bloody spectacle, because life is imperfect, and bloody and messy. Life and love and passion and creativity. That's what I saw there.

So what that tells me is that the "Black Swan" haters need to have more orgasms and connect to their passions.

In the other subject, I confess, when I was younger, I was swayed by the tenor of the times, and my father. John Lennon and Yoko Ono were just wacky and crazy with this "Bed In" thing and preaching about peace. Nuts. Off their rockers.

I saw this in the frustrated questioning of the (I think BBC) reporter. She seemed to be perceiving Lennon and Ono as either complete nutcases, or fantasists wasting her time. She kept arguing about the seriousness of people dying in various wars, and they kept talking about how if people really thought about peace, peace could happen.

Yoko made quite an eloquent argument about "how can you shoot someone when you're smiling?" She was actually arguing quite complex spiritual principles. If you embody love, you cannot simultaneously embody hate. Hate is what causes killing. Hatred and fear. So if you choose love, if you choose peace, consciously, we would have no more war.

I understand that now. I sure didn't understand that then. Neither did the frustrated BBC reporter, who actually got up and stormed off at this point. She reacted as though Yoko were completely wasting her time, when in fact, they were both just trying to get her to understand.

And what will it take, as we have an insane stonewalling Congress on the horizon, for people to put down their arms and their stubbornness and finally listen and hear?


Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Love and Other Drugs Goes Cold Turkey

Amid the crush of holiday releases and Oscar hopefuls, there are many many great pictures out right now. "Love and Other Drugs" is not one of them. The more I think about it, the more it bugs me.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays a brash handsome manipulator who beds women, uses them, spits them out (the usual). Anne Hathaway plays someone who's seen it all. She's been on the receiving end of such men, and as such, she's hardened, crass, cynical, guarded.

Both of these characters, for reasons described, are annoying and not fun to watch. He's thinking of ways to use people (easier, better, faster). She's thinking of witty comebacks to cut them down to size. Did I mention that this is not fun? This, despite the fact that both of them get naked a lot. Really. It's boring.

Who can he bed to sell his products? How can she avoid commitment? Wackiness ensues. No, not really. Boredom ensues.


The supposed serious part of this is the increase in pharmacological assistance through depression drugs like Zoloft and Prozac, the salesmen who hawk them, and it all comes complete with a splashy song and dance number. And when Gyllenhaal's company (Pfizer) comes out with Viagara... well, you can imagine what that does to Lothario's drug sales.

The wrench in all this is that Hathaway has Parkinson's disease (note shaky hand a couple of times). This is why she knows all the drug salesmen. And comes the speech: "You're not gonna love me cause I have a disease!" (*pouts* *stomps feet*) She's way too self-deprecating in this movie. Mean to herself and others.

He has received a horror story of the progression of the disease from someone at a conference, so suddenly it's "Nope, I'm shallow. I don't love you. Bye."

Blech. At this point, who cares? She's shrill, pouty and annoying. He's still glib, uses sex to get his way. Who cares?

The fact that anyone anywhere mentions this dreadful movie in the context of Oscars is sad. No one in this movie (though I do love director Edward Zwick and actor Oliver Platt, but seriously...) deserves anything that has the word Oscar attached to it.

Really hated it. Don't waste your time. Many other great movies out there instead.